Wednesday, 9 March 2011

SusMo success! Church roof turns into power station.

We've been following the situation with solar panels on the roof of St Mary's church in Moseley with interest for some time, as this should be a great opportunity to show other churches what can be done with a real demonstrator project that benefits the local community and the cause of renewable energy as a whole.

SusMo has put in a huge amount of work to make this project a success. They won £30,000 from the Green Streets award for this part of the bid (the other money going to the Mosque and some residential properties). The project also had a further £20,000 lined up to meet the full cost, but that opportunity has now expired. SusMo are now actively seeking a replacement source of funding, and would be delighted to hear from people who can help them find it.

However, the important barrier of permission to install the solar panels has now been overcome. This result comes after a long and arduous campaign. The Planning Inspectorate overturned the decision of the Planning Committee, thereby granting planning permission, in September 2010. The Diocese of Birmingham had to follow a separate (and lengthy) process of evaluation before reaching their decision, but was eventually swayed by the sense and viability of the project.

John Dowell, the agent for St. Mary’s Moseley Parochial Church Council, expressed joy and relief at the Chancellor’s decision. “His decision backs the views of the churchgoers, Moseley residents, and members of the wider public who have written in support, rather than the objectors who wished to preserve the church building exactly as it was in 1910.” He added that it brought the Diocese of Birmingham in line with projects in other parts of the country‚ including London, Bath and Bristol‚ ensuring that the city is not left behind in its response to climate change and rising fuel prices.

SusMo Chair Claire Spencer echoed John’s sentiments. “This installation will ensure that St. Mary’s is less reliant on energy from fossil fuels, and makes a great deal of financial sense. Visually, it sends a wonderful, positive message ‚ the people of Moseley care deeply about its present, its future, and one another. But the process that we have been through with St. Mary’s has also set a precedent, making it easier for other churches to tap into renewable energy‚ and we look forward to their plans!”

SusMo would like to thank everyone who has supported them and St. Mary’s throughout this project‚ the good advice, letters of support and words of encouragement made all the difference.

Birmingham Friends of the Earth offers our congratulations and hopes that this will be the first of many similar schemes in the city.

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